Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A Time to Spin

Don't I wish. It seems I have less time to spin every day. And my reading time has totally disappeared. (I did manage to work in Dean Koontz's new book Breathless and will probably have to work in King's new Under the Dome. I always find time for their new books.) I've been spending all my time the last couple of weeks sculpting sea creatures out of polymer clay. At first they were an experiment for the Artful Tree I decorated for TCAA's Holiday Tree Auction. They turned out so cute and whimsical that I decided to make a bunch more for my Etsy store and Christmas gifts. I'm also going to try to sculpt a Peekachoo for Melissa's stocking. I guess I should also do a Dalleck for Daniel and something Star Wars or and Orc for Bob. Daniel has informed me that his toy Dalleck will once again grace the top of our Christmas tree this year.

Back to spinning. Ive had an idea for a whole series of yarns and spinning batts: University Colors. I will use my drum carder to make batts in the color combinations of all the major universities. I can either sell them as batts or spin them into yarns for my Etsy shop. (I finally opened my Etsy store last week and have already sold 15 items!) I think all the grandmothers, and mothers, and aunts, and other relatives of all those marvelous college students may enjoy using my yarns to make hats and scarves and other outerwear for their loved ones. I've started out by putting together a list of all schools (and their official colors) in the major university sports conferences. So far I've included the Big 10, the Big 12, and the Ivy League schools, next I need to work on the Southeast conference. I've already carded a batt of blue, orange, and royal blue Angelina that I have named "Florida Alligator". I plan on spinning that one up this Saturday while at market.

Now for places to spin during the time. I love to spin in public. And the public loves to watch me spin. I always enjoy talking with all the different people who stop to watch. I am also always getting asked to bring my wheel to other markets. Of course they all want me to rent a space at their markets. I've decided that for the moment I will probably only sell my yarns in my Etsy shop ( and at one or two other markets as well as at TCAA. If other groups want me to come out I will offer to do so, but only as a demonstrator and only if I don't have to pay for the booth. We shall see.

I wish it was "time to spin" this morning, but I need to make more sea creatures and a blackberry pie.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Jury Duty

I recently finished jury duty. It was a life changing experience. It was a murder trial. What surprised me most was the reaction of people to the jury's verdict. We received a lot of hostile comments because we found the defendant guilty of Second Degree Murder, not First Degree Premeditated.

What most people do not seem to remember is that jurors are chosen from a pool of people who have no knowledge of the case and have to make their decision based upon what the lawyers present in court. I was a trifle upset because it seemed that either the police department did a very poor job of investigating the crime, or the State Attorney chose not to present certain evidence and witnesses. There seemed to be no definitive evidence. Because a lot of questions were not answered by the testimony and evidence, the jury had to go with reasonable doubt and find the defendant guilty of Second Degree Murder. There just was not enough proof of premeditation. The jury was very serious in their deliberations and reviewed much of the testimony and evidence.

Decisions like this are not easy and must be made very carefully. It is a very serious business because you not only have the life of the defendant in your hands and your decision will have a deep impact on everyone involved, including the jury.

It was a very interesting process. I would like to make a suggestion to any attorneys of similar cases: have an uninterested party read through your evidence and make a list of unanswered questions and what evidence is missing. These additional items just might make a difference in the verdict.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Hidden Treasure

Just spent a couple of weeks in Texas. While there, I spent most of my time at my mother's new apartment in a continuing care community. I was cleaning out a couple of drawers in her antique furniture when I found some papers behind the drawers. They were copies of handwritten notes made by my grandmother while she was in nursing school in 1918.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Yarn To Dye For (or a simple one pot method to make multicolor yarn.)

After spinning and plying a large amount of white Corriedale wool, I decided it was time to play with color. I wanted to try and make a self- striping yarn for slipper socks and fingerless mittens. I also wanted to devise a method that would make the smallest mess possible and would not require lots of newspaper, paper towels, plastic wrap, and many containers that would have to be cleaned up afterwards.

If you try my method, you will need the following materials:

1 skein of yarn separated into 3 bundles (one for each color.) I have to find a simpler way of doing this, but that will be the subject of a future blog.
White vinegar
Large pyrex or other glass bowl
Kool Aid
16 oz. disposable cups
1 gallon size large freezer bags
Latex gloves
Measuring cup
Large plastic collander
Large pot, bowl, or dishpan
Plastic wrap
Gentle liquid soap
Lavender oil
Large bath towel

My first step was to soak the wool in a water/vinegar mixture for 20 minutes to prepare it for dyeing. While the wool was soaking, I prepared my dye mixtures. I measured 2 ounces of vinegar and 6 ounces of water into each plastic cup. (I used 3 cups, one for each color.) I emptied 2 packages of Kool Aid into each cup and stirred the mixture. Higher concentrations of Kool Aid lead to more intense colors.

After soaking the wool for 20 minutes, remove it from the water/vinegar mixture and let it drain for a couple of minutes in the collander. Take 3 large freezer bags (again, one for each color) and stand them up in the large glass bowl. Put one bundle of yarn in each bag after carefully removing the ties holding the bundles together. Pour one of the dye mixtures over the yarn in one of the freezer bags. (Now would be a good time to put on the rebber or latex gloves.) Gently squish the yarn and the liquid around in the bottom of the bag. Repeat this process for each of the other yarn bundles and the dyes for each bundle. You may want to make sure the yarnat the top of each bundle is also immersed in some of the dye. Carefully stand up each bag in the bowl and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Microwave the bowl on high for 8 to 9 minutes. Carefully remove the bowl from the microwave and make sure that any liquid in the bottom of each freezer bag is now clear. Let the bowl and its contentsd cool for a few minutes. Carefully move the freezer bags from the glass bowl and place them in the collander, then gently empty each bag of wool into the collander. Leave the wool in the collander until completely cooled.

Once the wool has completely cooled, gently wash in water with a small amount of gentle soap and a few drops of lavender oil. (This will help remove the Kool Aid smell. The lavender oil also helps to protect the wool from moths.) Rinse thoroughly in cool water and roll in dry towelling to help remove excess water. Hang yarn up to dry.

Enjoy using your hand dyed yarn in your next project!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Something Old, Something New

Today I will start monitoring the Monday afternoon Open Studio at the Treasure Coast Art Association. I've requested that this studio time be dedicated to fiber arts. It will be interesting to see how many people will decide to become involved.

For myself, I have decided to crochet a small handbag using some of my new handspun yarn. I've been racking my brain for a crochet pattern to complement the yarn. Finally I went back to my bookshelves and found an old book titled The Complete Encyclopedia of Stitchery, which has a very well developed section on crochet. It was a lot of fun seeing some of the forgotten stitches and patterns in this old book. I finally decided to use a moss pattern. I'm going to attempt writing out the pattern for this handbag as I develop it. This will be an interesting challenge.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Frog Prince (or, My Life Really Is A Fairytale!)

We all know the story of the Frog Prince. The story includes 2 very important elements: the frog and the kiss. Without these 2 elements there would be no story.

My life as a fiber artist also incorporates these 2 elements that are an integral part of my art. First is the kiss. Many of us also know KISS as an acronym for Keep It Simple Stupid. I've often used that rule in my designs (the less is more concept). There are three very good reasons for keeping designs simple. First, there is nothing more elegant than something simple that shows your personality or fashion flair. Knowing when to stop adding things to a design is what makes the difference between an artist and a wannabee. Too much of a good thing is just that, TOO MUCH! Remember the wedding gown in the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

Second, it helps keep costs down. Every time you add something extra to a design the basic material costs go up. Don't go overboard here and minimize to the max. Once again the difference between an artist and a wannabee can be plainly seen. Too little of a good thing is TOO LITTLE! You know what I mean. A bracelet made with only two types of beads alternating throughout its length is simple but lacks imagination and personality.

Third, if you plan to duplicate the pattern, make the pattern available commercially, or use it as a teaching pattern, it is much easier to write it out with fewer mistakes if it is simple. It is also much simpler to teach a simple pattern and give your students a feeling of accomplishment when they can easily learn it and walk away with something they can be proud of.

The only thing left to discuss in this allegory is the other main element, the FROG. Anyone who has ever been involved in any form of needle art knows the frog stitch. Rippit, rippit, rippit!

By now you understand why I say my life really is a fairytale. I'm sure your life is also one!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Dragon Tote Bag

Photo of a large fulled tote bag I designed for a Ravelry swap.

Drafting and Detours

I finished reading the posts in a Ravelry group concerning how to spin evenly a little while ago. Most of it dealt with how to draft your fibers to make a smooth thread. Some of it dealt with making neural pathways within ourselves to handle these new tasks. This started a whole new stream of thought for me.

I have become very aware of my own network of neural pathways over the last 15 years while dealing with the effects of Parkinson's. I believe that many times I have set up detours on my neural pathways in order to accomplish tasks that have become more difficult due to the rigors of the disease.

Finding detours or new routes has always been part of my life, even before the Parkinson's. I remember the first Christmas after we got married when we got stuck in a blizzard on the way back to Nebraska. Some of the roads had 8 foot drifts blocking them. We ended up following snowplows on some back roads to bypass the snow drifts. When our children were small, we always enjoyed roaming the countryside in the station wagon, finding new roads to get where we wanted to go. I still enjoy roaming around in my vehicle, when the gas prices are down, of course.

Now I have a new network of roads to discover. But this network is all in my head. I've discovered new routes to familiar locations as well as paths to new places.

Life is always an adventure, both on the physical roads and landscapes as well as the mental ones.

First Photos

Here they are! The first photos of items made with my first hand spun yarns! These are both small handbags made with a 50% Merino wool/50% silk blend combined with a solid wool yarns from my stash.

Thursday, April 9, 2009


I am very excited. I finally finished spinning two bobbins (50 grams each) of a handpainted merino/silk combination on my new spinning wheel. It's a learn as you go process since I can find no teachers within a hundred miles. I think they're slightly overspun in places, but hope that plying the yarn and washing it will help loosen it up and turn it into a viable 2 ply yarn.

I spent a couple of hours working to ply the the two bobbins together. I had a few mishaps along the way, but finally turned out a full bobbin. I used the Niddy Noddy to turn it into a skein, then got dressed and went to the monthly Treasure Coast Art Association meeting. I took my finished skein with me to show a couple of my friends. What fun!

Today I took my skein and gently washed it by hand in hot, soapy water I really started worrying when the water started turning red, but it cleared up when I rinsed it out. I added a couple drops of vinegar in the third rinse and the some lavender essential oil in the final rinse. My finished product is now hanging up to dry. I have envisioned using it to crochet a medium size round bag.

Plying was an interesting experience. Reminds me a lot of marriage. The smoothest looking sections of my yarn were the areas where each strand was equal in the spin. Marriage also goes smoother when both partners put an equal amount of time into the ply. There are also many times when one partner or the other puts less "spin" into the ply, turning the marriage into a thick/thin combination. I also like using variegated colors in my finished yarn. This really shows up the differences and the colors which complement each other and make life interesting. I do wonder, though, what will happen with the piece of handspun that was left when the plying was finished. Will the remaining partner from the many years of plying be as messed up as the leftover piece of handspun. I guess I will just have to find a use for that leftover piece of handspun. Will it be plied with another piece or be put to some other creative use. I do not think that it should ever be thrown away.

Insomnia and Computers

The title of this post says it all. It reminds me of the question for all the ages: "Which came first, the chicken or the egg?"

I'm sure that many of my most creative ideas come at 3 in the morning. I'm also sure that many of my most ludicrous ideas come at 4 in the morning. It remains to be seen whether the creative ones are also ludicrous. That's the question for 5 in the morning. This makes me wonder if a blog written before 6 in the morning should be considered creative or ludicrous. I guess it depends on what time I really woke up.

I wonder how many people spend half the night on their computers. I know my younger son is usually on his until 3 or 4 in the morning, sometimes even later. I know that I see a lot of people on Pogo or Ravelry during those wee hours of the morning, although it may not be middle of the night for many of them. The internet really is a worldwide community with no limitations based on localized temporal habits and rituals.

What's in a name?

Shakespeare had it mostly right! Even more so in today's world where the right name can mean so much in the virtual world. Therefore, my new venture and my new blog need a new name, Kathleen's Spin. They say to make it personal and simple. So the combination of my name with a word of many different connotations should work well. Join me in, for, and around the spin!